• The Tensorate Series

  • 3 Novellas
  • By: Neon Yang
  • Narrated by: Nancy Wu
  • Length: 13 hrs and 39 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (78 ratings)

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The Tensorate Series

By: Neon Yang
Narrated by: Nancy Wu
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Publisher's Summary

The Black Tides of Heaven: In the first book of the Tensorate series, a rebellion threatens the power of the Protectorate. Akeha, one of the twin children of the Protector, leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?

The Red Threads of Fortune: In the second book in the Tensorate series, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom, far from everything she used to love.

On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: The beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate.

The Descent of Monsters: Yang continues to redefine the limits of silkpunk fantasy with the Tensorate novellas. In this third volume, an investigation into atrocities committed at a classified research facility threatens to expose secrets that the Protectorate will do anything to keep hidden.

©2017 Neon Yang (The Black Tides of Heaven, The Red Threads of Fortune); Copyright 2018 by Neon Yang (The Descent of Monsters) (P)2018 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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What listeners say about The Tensorate Series

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Intriguing, but I feel like I must have missed som

What I enjoy about this series is the Asian inspired setting, the intriguing magic system, and androgynous or non gender binary characters. People being born sexless and have to choose a gender, although some do not. There were interesting relationships built, but I have to admit, I feel like there's a 4th book that I'm missing. I'm not sure if there are plans for a 4th, but it feels like maybe there should be.

The first and second books have solid arcs and seem to be building towards a converging climax. Both are written in third person, the first focusing on one sibling, the second focusing on the other. I expected the third to tie their stories together and conclude the escalating tensions between the oppressive leadership and rebellion, but the third takes a completely different approach. It feels like an extended epilogue where past events are recounted in the forms of journal entries and transcripts from interrogations, and leaves off a handful of unanswered questions. I appreciate a story that leaves me with questions, but some of these felt incomplete - a character dies, but to what effect? One major character is revealed to be pregnant, but they aren't really spoken of beyond that.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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Want more!

What a perfect series! That perfect blend between leaving you wanting more (and in a way acknowledging no story truly ever finishes) and leaving you totally satisfied.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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I love these novellas

I listened to the different novellas in this compilation over a period of months and loved each of them. Because they were listened to as separate stories, rather than a single whole within this compilation, I wrote reviews for each of them individually. Each of those reviews is presented below. Taken as a whole, though, they say that you should definitely listen to this omnibus edition of the first three novellas of this series. I also really hope the fourth novella will be recorded soon. Though I will definitely read it, I really would prefer to listen to Wu narrate it.

Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1):

In a world that is similar to the far east at a time when technology is trying to get a foothold. Yet, those who would work to forward the technology (the Machinists) face opposition from Tensors (magic users) who enjoy a position of privilege of power because so much relies on magic. For example, to talk to a family member in another city, one pays for the use of a Talker, if one can afford it. The machinists want to develop a basic telephone wire for the same purpose, that everyone could use regardless of their ability to use magic (the Slack, in this world).

In addition, every child born is genderless, and the child is raised as such, using they/them pronouns and a neutral "I" until they choose a gender. There is no timeline for this to occur either. Some children choose a gender when they're 6. Others at 16. Others never do, remaining genderless their entire life.

This book centers on a pair of twins born to the Protectorate - this world's version of an Emperor/Empress. In a somewhat unusual story-telling method, the story unfolds in a series of time skips. For example, we start when the twins are first born, then skip to when they are 6, then again a few years later. Each time skips brings the reader in touch with a key moment in one or both of their lives, as they grow up and realize that their mother sees them as a chess pieces for her to use on some imaginary board of play, while they both want to be more than that.

As they begin to enter adulthood, events occur that cause the twins, who have never been apart in their lives, to separate and follow their own paths. Will they be able to maintain the closeness they've had as twins? Or will their different paths separate them?

My only complaint about this book is that it was too short. While we certainly experienced the high points for each twin, I would have liked to have even more. This is especially true of Mokoya. While I understood the need for the story to follow Akeha a bit more in adulthood, it would have been nice to see what Mokoya was up to during those years. I also really wanted to know more about their mother. Granted, that was not necessary for the story - in fact, the mystery of her fuels the various interactions a great deal - she intrigued me, and I was left wanting to learn more about her.
Perhaps I will get that in the next book. I hope so.

I definitely enjoyed listening to the narrator, Nancy Wu, for this story. Her narration allowed me to experience the world of the Protectorate in a much different way than just reading the novella. Indeed, after reading parts and listening to parts, I shall definitely choose to listen to the next two novellas in this omnibus.

The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2):

Picking up a few years after the end of The Black Tides of Heaven, this book is told from the point of view of Mokoya, the twin sister of the MC from the first book. In this story, we see Mokoya struggling with the loss she has had. Instead of staying at the monastery, she has set out and is now a naga hunter. On the trail of a huge naga, Mokoya meets Rider, who is also hunting the same naga, and the two begin a friendship. But Rider has their own secrets. Not only that, but there are secrets surrounding the naga that both are seeking that could lead to war with the Protectorate.

I truly enjoyed The Black Tides of Heaven when I read it, particularly of a world in which all children are considered genderless until they choose their own gender - usually at age 18. So I loved returning to the world. This story did not disappoint, either. This story being told from the point of view of Mokoya allows us to get to know her even more than the pieces we got from the first book, and Yang did a beautiful job of illustrating her struggles with her grief of losing her daughter.

As the story unfolded, the worldbuilding also continued, and we learned more about how Mokoya's prophecy powers work and didn't work. Characters that we met in the first book reappear in this story, so we also get more character development with the ability to see the same characters through another person's eyes.

For this book, I was able to listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Nancy Wu. She does a wonderful job with the narration, and I certainly hope that the last novella will be recorded soon so that I will be able to experience it as an audiobook as well.

The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate #3):

The more novellas I read/listen to within this world, the more I come to love them. Though Black Tides of Heaven will always have the special distinction of introducing me to this world, The Descent of Monsters is a very close second. I loved the way this story was told through the interviews and letters, like a documentary of sorts, as opposed to the prose of a traditional story.

I had to laugh during the interviews, in particular, because of all the information that had been redacted. It was especially funny on audiobook, as the narrator, Nancy Wu, was just going "Interviewer. Redacted. Prisoner. Redacted. Interviewer. Redacted..."

Reading The Red Threads of Fortune, I had enjoyed being able to experience the story through the eyes of a different character from Black Tides of Heaven. Doing so provided a fuller picture of the world, and that picture became even more colorful with the addition of this story. I wasn't particularly surprised by the horrors of the experiments that had been performed by the Protectorate, particularly as the story unfolds and more information is provided, and I continue to enjoy learning more about his world.

As with the previous two stories, I listened to this one. As with the first two, Nancy Wu did a wonderful job with the performance. As wonderful as the stories are, Wu was able to elevate them to a different level, making the experience that much better. I only wish there was an audiobook available for the last novel of this series, The Ascent to Godhood. Should one ever be recorded, I will definitely be listening to it. Until then, though, I will have to be okay with reading it.

If you haven't begun this series yet, then I highly recommend reading The Black Tides of Heaven and beginning the journey. If you have already read the first two novellas, then you should just get the book and start enjoying it.

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The best representation of Nonbinary characters!

I received a physical copy of The Black Tides of Heaven awhile ago and remember finishing it in one day. I was pulled in to a fantastical land where gender is established by the individual and not physical appearance, where twins are believed to have extraordinary powers, and where love is just love without labels or stigma. Being a nonbinary twin myself, I identified closely with Akeha and his love for his sister. Nancy Wu as the narrator was amazing! Her unique character voices really worked for me. This also might sound stupid, but I'm also glad they got an asian narrator, I really appreciate being able to hear the correct pronunciation for everything. Up until listening to the series, I thought Ah-keh-ha was pronounced Ah-KEE-Ha.The only thing that is flawed about the first book is that it could have fleshed out the world a little more and gave us more emotional connection if it was beefed up and split in two. I wanted to know more about this world's history and experience more of it.
I adore Rider in The Red Threads of Fortune. There likely will never be a more accurate portrayal of what it's like to be nonbinary than Rider. Their very real experience of constantly being misgendered and the mystical tattoos that represent a very real desire to have your body and life respected especially in death really spoke to my experience. The focus being switched to Mokoya was excellent following the events at the end of book one. I loved experiencing how she navigated her sorrow and seeing her emotions affect her judgment. I think things progressed a little too quickly between Rider and Mokoya, again i would have loved to see Mokoya build more trust with Rider. A slower progression would have made other situations hit harder. I dont care that they had sex like minutes after meetings, but it seemed a little too perfect.
The final installment, The Descent of Monsters, wasn't my favorite but I enjoyed the format it took, where there wasnt one narrator but a collection of letters, diary entries, and reports. This volume also suffered from being too short, I would have enjoyed more world building. It also didn't hurt that the 3rd book reminded me alot of my favorite video game NieR Replicant. I mean this is the most respectful of ways, but it felt like reading a very satisfying NieR fan fic. It filled a piece of my soul that is anxiously awaiting the remaster.
Final thoughts, love this series but wish it were longer! I truly hope Yang considers adding to this series because I want more.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Boring :-/

I really wanted to enjoy this series, but ultimately it was difficult to follow and a bit boring.

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  • ALK
  • 09-30-20

Interesting speculative fiction.

The compilation of the first three books in the Tensorate series work well as an audiobook, with a skilled and listenable narrator. The relative brevity of the books (novellas I suppose) allow a faster flow of narrative than many 30h+ fantasy doorstops in the genre. Unfortunately that comes at a cost, leaving me with a sense of incompleteness, as if I'd read a buffed up submission to an anthology rather than a complete work. This was notably the case with book 3: The Descent of Monsters.
Positively, the world is creative and fresh, a mix of elemental sorcery and a 'force'-like "Slack" clashing with technology (guns, communicators), with an East Asian cultural vibe. It's USP is the gender fluid nature of the characters, which while intriguing can lead to confusing pronoun usage for old brains such as mine. It's woven well into the characters, however, and I found it fresh and interesting to 'read.'
Cynically, one could consider that the accolades heaped on the books relate more to the gender fluid and non-European aspects of the book versus the story. I'd say not, at least for books 1 and 2. They have good character driven plots, intelligent writing, fairly solid dialogue, and engaging stories of the two disparate twins.
I found book 3 a chore. The narrative device didn't work well in audiobook, and the plot was fairly scanty, and uninspiring. It felt like a short story, or even an epilogue, padded out. Perhaps it's a set-up for more work? I'm glad that it wasn't a book I'd purchased stand alone, as I'd feel rather short changed.
In summary, a good compilation of three variable books, in an interesting setting. Worth a listen or a read.